Computer Workstation Management: Tips for reducing risk of injury and illness

My inspiration to write this topic actually started a year ago when I first saw the computer room at my mum’s school. I remember stepping in there for the first time ever and rearranging the workstations. The chairs were the worst culprits – the wrong kind of chairs anyone should be using. Fast forward a year later – I gave a talk on stress management at an event and after the event while “networking”, someone asked me questions about computer workstations. He said he uses his computer 12–18 hours a day with little or no breaks and wanted to know the implication of this – I did tell him the health implications and promised to write something on it.

Many people today use computers at work or at home, kids use them at school also so there are many peple are risk of injury and illness from their use of computer workstations. Many people inevitably use them for very long periods of time. Many also lack the knowledge of what a safe computer workstation should look like and are unable to correctly set it up. Incorrect set up and long period of use can result in back pains, RSIs that is, repetitive strain injury (aching limbs), fatigue and eye strain which could lead to headaches. It doesn’t matter how long you use the station be it 5 minutes or 5 hours – if you are using it incorrectly, with time it will tell on your health

Without getting scientific or too technical, here are some basic tips on how to set up your workstation without the help of a pro 😉

Setting up your workstation.
1. Your chair.

Your chair must be adjustable. Adjust the seat height to ensure your feet are flat on the floor. Make sure your upper and lower back are supported. Use inflatable cushions or small pillows if necessary. Adjust the armrests so that your shoulders are relaxed. If your armrests are in the way and detachable then remove them; if not change your seat.

2. Your keyboard and mouse.

Culled from
Culled from

Your keyboard should have an adjustable height and tilt mechanism. The keyboard should be placed close to you directly in front of your body. When using your keyboard, your shoulders must be relaxed, your elbows should be in a slightly open position and close to your body, and your wrists and hands should be kept straight (just like in this photo).

Your keyboard must be nearer to you than the mouse as you use the keyboard more often than the mouse.

3. Your monitor, documents and telephone.
Incorrect positioning of the screen and source documents can result in awkward postures which can result in neck and back pains. Adjust the monitor and source document in a way that places your neck in a neutral and relaxed position. Place the monitor directly in front of you, behind the keyboard. The top of your monitor should be at your eye level. Sit at least an arm’s length from the monitor – don’t have it so close to you.

If there is insufficient space, place source documents on a document holder positioned adjacent to the monitor. Place your telephone within easy reach. You can use a headset or speaker phone to prevent you cradling the handset.

4. Duration of use and breaks.
This is where most of my focus is on today. I am guilty of spending long hours in front of my PC especially when I have much to do or even when I am carried away by something I am working on. Sometimes I lose track of time and only realise how much time I have spent at my computer workstation when I begin to feel uncomfortable and my eyes begin to water. When I was at Uni I suffered from RSIs a few times especially during the times I had much research to do for essays and projects. I didn’t know what was happening until my doctor pointed it out. You are probably experiencing the same thing?

Here are some useful tips:
1. Take regular breaks away from your computer workstation. You can take 10-15 minutes every hour. You can also spend a few seconds every so often looking away from the computer screen. Prolonged use of computers can cause eye strain and even headaches. Sitting in same position for long periods can cause back pain and a lot of discomfort.

  1. Reduce the number of hours you spend in front of your computer everyday. Many don’t want to lose any time at all, so I always advice people to get busy by looking at or filing away paperwork or just about anything productive to get you away from your workstation.

So apart from these four tips listed above, make sure there is enough space for you to move about – you don’t want to have to squeeze in and out of your workstation as this will make you and other prone to accidents. You should also practice good housekeeping. Ensure your workstation is not cluttered. Wires should be tucked safely away from passages to prevents trips and falls.

I found this useful video on YouTube that gives practical tips on setting your workstation. It helps when you someone shows you how it done so please watch it.


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